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TRANSITION to the new standards - WE CAN DO IT
Someone once said, “It is not change that kills -- it is the transitions”. As I was reflecting on this quote, I thought of a few scenarios in my own path where this seems to fit very well. As many of you know, I am in the throes of an addition to my future home. The building “event” lends itself to a plethora of struggles and stressors not to mention: inclement weather looms! Until everything once again has a place and the daily routine is running smoothly, everyone feels out of sorts, grumpy and unsettled.
It dawned on me that educators are experiencing this unsettled period across the nation as we move toward yet a new venture called the Common Core and the implementation of the College and Career Readiness Standards.
Fear of the unknown, stress on HOW students and teachers will be measured along with the philosophical changes in practice has creates a great deal of anxiety among teachers. This transition time period is critical.
Turning back to the building project, I have been immersed in the world of construction lingo: trusses, subfloor, sheeting, scaffolding, flashing etc. Some of the terminology I am familiar with and other terms not so much. Let me attempt to build a picture.
THE CURRENT STRUCTURE: We cut the roof off of our house to add the addition. This of course leaves everything open and exposed to the elements during this process. Stress? I think yes! Most of the teachers I have worked with feel like the roof has been lifted off. While the previous “roof” was leaky and ineffective, it did provide some sense of security. Teachers at times feel exposed and unsure of whether this change will truly build a stronger structure. With our project, we are tearing out the old and replacing it with new definitely better construction. While it is exciting to implement new structures, it is unsettling. Transition is tough!
THE FOUNDATION must be solid. A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him. David Brinkley
There is a great deal of work that goes into ensuring the foundation is strong and steady. If it isn’t, one can only imagine the outcome of our sweet little abode. The same is true for our classrooms. Leaders are being called upon to lead the charge during this transition time; teachers must create a foundation in the classroom, which includes high academic expectations of rigor and relevance, college and career readiness, higher level thinking skills etc. This must work in tandem with creating a safe, respectful and trusting classroom culture.
THE SUBFLOOR Who knew flooring choices could be so complicated? We have definitely progressed from the old days of earthen, clay, and even concrete. Now the choices range from floating - to raised - to sprung floors. Whatever the preferred type, the purpose is still the same: to provide support.
What practices do educators need to have in place to provide support for integrating the new standards? The opportunity to promote authentic learning opportunities, higher level thinking skills, collaborative grouping, independent self-directed learning, and real world connections top the list.
THE WALLS One timesaving and interesting event that I observed during our construction project was that the builders created a skeletal structure for each wall prior to putting it into place. Each board was carefully measured, cut and nailed. Window and door openings were measured and precut after which the entire wall was lifted and set into its proper location. The skilled builders were sure of their purpose and amazingly efficient.
The basic purpose of a wall is to fortify, protect and provide continued support to the existing structure. For leaders, this means fortifying our teachers by empowering them with the professional learning tools needed to sustain this new structure. Many of these supports can be pre-built by providing time for unpacking, collaboration, curriculum alignment, and lesson plan construction.
THE TOOLS I forgot to mention the amazing tools available these days. The hammer is almost antiquated anymore. High-powered tools allow the builders to be much more effective and efficient with their time.
What tools do educators still need for this new project? I am finding that while differentiated instruction has been around for a long time, it is important now more than ever. Many teachers are still struggling for ideas on how to put it into regular practice. Providing professional learning and accessing resources to support this will help meet the call of “all students being successful”.
Technology is another high-powered tool that is necessary in this transition. The CCRS state that students must be able to “use technology and digital media strategically and capably”, yet because of funding many schools struggle to provide adequate and up to date technology. Isn’t it ironic that many times, students come to us with better technology in their pockets than we can provide at school? Why not capitalize on this? Other hot tools that can help drive this process are Project Based Learning and CTE.
THE SCAFFOLDS As with any new creation, it is important to step back, analyze, rework and reassess. During this transition, educators must carefully adjust areas that need to be reworked. As teachers begin to implement, leadership will need to provide ongoing scaffolds through professional learning and collaborative opportunities.
THE ROOF Of course the roof protects the structure from the elements. Without it, the structure wouldn’t last very long. Once educators have created the structures needed for success, it should be valued and protected.
Growing pains are a part of any new process and structural change is particularly difficult when on a large scale with high stakes. During this transitional time it is critical that educators work together to build a sustainable structure.